City Cast

The Goats in Your Backyard

Hayley Sperling
Hayley Sperling
Posted on September 13
A black and white photo shows two goats sitting in a wooded area with their heads resting against each other.

The city uses herds of goats to help clear parks of invasive species. (Chris Miedaner)

There’s a team at the Madison Parks Department whose sole job is to eat and its members spend long hours on assignment in many Madison parks throughout the summer. But what’s most unique about these park staffers is that they’re all goats.

The city uses goats to clear out brush and invasive species from the city’s parks. And they’re pretty good at it.

Why Goats?

Goats are a useful and more sustainable option for this situation because they can replace the use of herbicides. Additionally, by making a first pass through a park, goats help cut down the amount of time that their human coworkers need to be out in the field (literally) with heavy equipment. And not to mention, they like to get paid in grass.

The goats munch on plants such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, box elder, mulberry, and will even devour poisonous or toxic plants like poison ivy (but don’t worry, it’s not harmful to them!).

On top of eating unwanted plants, goat pellets naturally fertilize soil and promote growth of native grasses. A win-win scenario since no one has to clean up after them.

herd of goats in the woods

Goats eat invasive plants such as buckthorn, honeysuckle, box elder, and more. They'll even show down on poison ivy. (Chris Meidaner)

Who’s Watching the Goats?

The goats get dropped off inside areas of Madison parks that have been set up with electric fences, which keeps them in place for the most part. But every now and then, an escape artist will break free. That’s where you come in.

Madison Parks uses volunteers to assist with daily goat checks to ensure the goats and their area are in good condition, especially after storms.

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